New York Fashion Week alternative? City’s vintage shops offer funky, affordable clothes

By Shaye Weaver

The haute couture that will be on display at New York Fashion Week (Sept. 6-14) is largely unobtainable for just about everybody, but locals know they have much cheaper options to be fashion-forward — second-hand clothes shops.

The city is chock full of stores that specialize in classic or funky fashions of the past. While thrifting and vintage clothes shopping has always been popular, interest has grown in recent years, shop owners say.

Jade Oliver, the owner of Vintage Queens NYC, says that younger people are appreciating that older craftsmanship stays together well, and at the same time, dressing in older clothing "gives them a chance to time travel."

Plus, it's fashionable — modern labels are pulling from decades gone by, according to Carrie Peterson, who co-owns the vintage shop Beacon's Closet.

"A lot of designers come to Beacon's Closet to find something for inspiration," she says. "They're coming to see the vintage clothing to create and modify their designs. It happens quite a bit."

New York City in particular is a gold mine for such things thanks to locals, from students to the older population, who donate their items big and small, shop owners say.

Here's what you can expect to find at a few of them.

Beacon's Closet

Photo Credit: Carly Rabalais

With four locations, Beacon's Closet feeds off and mirrors the fashions of its neighbors -- Greenpoint, Park Slope, Bushwick and Greenwich Village -- and offers a bit of everything, including trendier second-hand pieces.

Trends are dead, says Peterson, who sees most clients buying basics like denims, black pieces and deconstructed (taken apart and reassembled) clothes.

Despite that, her staff regularly goes on "reconnaissance missions" to dig up a variety of clothing to make sure they have something for every style.

People lately tend to gravitate toward 1990s fashions, including shiny fabrics and shoes, plastics and vinyl pieces. Vintage T-shirts always have been a favorite, too. With this in mind, Peterson says the ideal '90s outfit at Beacon's would include boots with buckles, a (non-frou-frou) A-line dress, and acrylic sunglasses.

"It's bulky with more flowery pieces," she said. "We're seeing florals but in a bigger and bolder sort of way."

About 90 percent of the items range from $15 to $100, she says.

(23 Bogart St. | | @beaconscloset)

Vintage Queens NYC

Photo Credit: Vintage Queens NYC via Facebook

Oliver, who has appeared on Amazon Prime's "The Vintage Voyageur," calls her by-appointment shop a "vintage clothes speakeasy." Specializing in clothing from the 1930s through the 1980s, Oliver loves putting outfits together for her clients, who are typically women who either dress vintage all the time or want to for a special occasion.

Many of the pieces you'll find there are 1940s rayon dresses, evening gowns and coats that range in price from $45 and up to about $600, Oliver says. Again, the 1990s are in style, but people are starting to mix decades, which is why the vintage/second-hand clothing industry has taken off, she says.

"You can find pieces that were worth hundreds of dollars but are now affordable," she says. "And, they're made very well."

Her ideal outfit from her collection would include a 1940s dress with purple tights, a sweater and ankle-high, heeled boots with a 1960s pillbox hat, she said.

(18-23 Astoria Blvd. | | @vintagequeensnyc)

Everything Goes Clothing

Photo Credit: Nadette Stasa

Staten Island's Everything Goes Clothing has become the community's go-to for costumes, affordable everyday clothing and special vintage pieces, according to LesleyAnne Crosby, the store's manager.

"Although we're modernizing everything to bring in more new clothes in, we do have a lot of thrift and vintage pieces, from 1950s plastic coin purses to Michael Kors watches," she says.

One of her favorite pieces is a 1930s fur that is monogramed "Amy." Clothes from the 1980s seems to be the big hit with boys looking for lacrosse shirts and older shoppers looking for Coogi sweaters (à la Cliff Huxtable), she says.

Prices vary widely -- there are sweaters for $4, for example, and vintage furs for $700. "People can come in here with $10 to $15 and leave with an outfit," she said.

(140 Bay St. | | @etgthriftandvintage)


JB b.o.r.n.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bodrick

This 125th Street shop is no longer brick-and-mortar since its owner (and former reality show star of "B.O.R.N. to Style" on the FYI network) Jonathan Bodrick closed up shop in October 2016. Trying to get back to the basics after fandom took its toll on the business, Bodrick (the #fairygodfather) is now doing personal shopping using the clothes and accessories from his collection that used to be in the store.

"You should look at what high-end designers are doing and mix that in with some old vintage pieces that make it look current and modern at the same time," he advises.

From time to time, he sets up parties that feature fashion talks and a shopping session.

Reached through his social media handles, Bodrick specializes in having an eclectic collection of both new and old, from 1970s jumpsuits to denim blazers. He caters to both young and old, but the young call on him to help shop for everyday clothes, he says.

Bodrick gleans his pieces from all over the city.

"It's hit or miss -- I'm out every day," he said. "I could go a week without getting inspired and then it's like a goldmine."

( | @BORN_Vintage)

Aquaduck Flea Market

Photo Credit: Aquaduck Flea Market

The Aquaduck Flea Market in East New York does sell electronics, home goods, and accessories, but it has a good selection of vintage clothing.

Unlike a lot of markets across Brooklyn that cater to more well-off customers, Aquaduck offers an old-school flea that has something for every price point, according to its owner, Dominic Ammerman.

"It's got an eclectic mix of new and vintage merchandise and it's a great place to find deals," he said. "You could potentially walk out with $100 of stuff worth $10,000."

Many of the vendors at the market do home clean-outs, purchase overstock and turn around and sell it for an affordable price, he said.

"In a world where people are hurting economically, it's hard to find vendors who sell you something for the fraction of its price," he said.

(700 Fountain Ave. | | #aquaduckfleamarket)